December, 1932



By 0. J. Ferguson

(At the latter end of this article is a question, which I wish to ask of all engineering students. If you can answer it, please do so by a personal call at my office or by a brief letter dropped through my door.)

Does the College of Engineering have a counsellor system ?


Does it work?

Well—perhaps I should paraphrase Lincoln's celebrated remark, and say that in some particulars it works all the time: in all particulars it works sometimes; but that it doesn't work in all particulars all of the time.

You are more or less familiar with our plan, but I will outline it briefly in order to put it clearly before you, and to set forth its objectives—some of which, I fear, may not be so evident to you.

Every instructor is a potential adviser, and friendships between instructors and students are productive of great good. Not to minimize this, however, I shall refer to our formal organization.

We have an adviser to all freshmen, in the person of Mr. J. P. Colbert. Behind him as a co-worker is the dean of the college.

Each student above the freshman year goes to his departmental adviser, who is the chairman of the department or his direct appointee.

All of these advisers have had extended experience covering a term of years, as well as hundreds of contacts. They have a fairly clear picture of the fields they enter in offering counsel. They make no attempts personally to cover the whole range of possible counseling, for their abilities are only human, and they have the limitations of their experiences. A student is frequently directed to see some other person who is competent to judge his peculiar need and to help him.

Our system is designed to estimate the mental and physical equipment which the new student brings, and to help him adjust his program to his need, and himself to his college work. It is also intended to direct his interest to the enlargement of his life, and to the assumption of his duties as a trained citizen. His attitude toward life opportunities and responsibilities is of much importance. To be as specific as possible, let me note definite points to which we give attention—things we attempt to do.

Our first personal contact usually comes on Freshman Day, which is a university and college day. Thru the exercises and contacts made this day, the student should realize that the university is interested in giving him a cordial welcome and a square deal. He should recognize that the relationship between his college and himself is what the linguist calls bilateral—two-sided; that mutual responsibilities exist; that a failure of either party to fulfill these responsibilities effects disaster.

At registration he is asked as to his preparation for college work. Is it full? Is it good? Are there deficiencies or omissions to be made up? Are there weak places which need strengthening?

Will he be able to devote full time to his university work? Does his financial status necessitate a reduction of program to allow for outside work?

Is his health equal to the task he is undertaking?

The student is advised to set up a study program as well as his recitation schedule. We hope that he will thus establish a persistent and regular attack upon his work, which cannot fail to achieve satisfactory results.

His study habits are of no greater importance than are his living habits. These too should be regular, with a normal program of recreation and sleep, with plentiful, wholesome food.

His difficulties should bring him voluntarily to his adviser—his "friend-in-need." He should not wait to be called in. In fact, his adviser wishes to know him, whether or not he is in difficulties.

So much for the student side. Now for the university side. We endeavor to supply as fully as possible to each student:

1. Counsel and direction in schedule matters.

2. Ways to improve study methods : ability to read rapidly; use of the library; establishment of good habits.

3. Information as to the general types of professional work, and the preparation needed for them.

4. Orientation in the field of engineering.

5. Health advice, and at least minor medical attention.

6. Counsel in the more personal things on which the student wishes to have help—such as finances, social activities, religious experiences, motives and ambitions.

7. A training which gives a man broader contacts and interests, as well as the specific advantages of developed abilities.

8. An interest in human needs, and a feeling of personal responsibility to one's fellows.

And now for the question.

Are we doing our part? Are you getting these things in the university community? What have you needed that you have not been able to get? Should our attempts cover more ground? What are the shortcomings of our system, or of ourselves?

Please tell me.